Of Modesty and Grace: Giveaway Winner!

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Thank you to all of you that left such kind comments and entered my very first give away.  This was a great learning experience for me and hopefully it was fun for you!

Rafflecopter and Random.org chose the winner of the Modest book and Grace bracelet.  Summer M. is our lucky winner!  Congratulations to Summer!

For His Glory ~

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Of Modesty and Grace: A Giveaway

Y’all….I’m a small-time blogger.  I’ve shared before, I write because it’s therapy and because I really do believe that God made me to write.  Maybe not everything I’ve ever written should have been said.  Actually, I can say for sure that not everything I’ve ever written should have been said.  But just because I don’t always say the right thing, that doesn’t diminish the drive to write.  And I write because it seems to be a ministry of sorts, and encouragement to others.  And because you all have been such a blessing and encouragement to me over the years, I have wanted to do a give away for a long time.  But, like I said, I’m a small-time blogger and really have no clue what I’m doing.  🙂  So will you bear with me as we venture out into my very first giveaway?

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This week I am giving away a copy of the book that I referenced heavily in my series Of Modesty and Grace, Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel by Tim Challies and RW Glenn.  I am also giving away a hand stamped aluminum Grace bracelet (pictured above) from FaithHopeBelieve.  Neither Challies and Glenn nor FaithHopeBelieve have a clue who I am or that I am giving their products away.  Like I said, I am just doing this because I love you all and it sounded like fun.  🙂

So, if you loved the series (or just want the book and bracelet) comment on this post to enter.  The giveaway begins today and will close next Tuesday, February 11. I will announce the winner (Lord willing) on February 12 (but remember, life is prone to happen here, so please be patient with me if I’m late a day or so).

And if you’re just now joining us and would like to read the whole series, start to finish, links can be found below.

Thanks again, friends, for joining me on this journey with My Ears are Tired.  I am blessed to have you all here with me.

Important Edit – if you are entering the giveaway, after you comment below, please click this link in parentheses –> ( a Rafflecopter giveaway) and enter the contest manually at Rafflecopter.com.  Because I am a small time blogger, things aren’t working quite like they should.  Thanks for being so fabulous and flexible!  🙂

For His Glory ~

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Of Modesty and Grace: A Six Part Series

Intro

Part I: Backstory and Bible Verses

Part II: Is Modesty More Than What We Wear?

Part III: Culture, Context, and Time

Part IV: What Does Our Immodesty Say About Us?

Part V: Who’s Responsibility Is It?

Part VI:  Where Do We Go From Here?

Of Modesty and Grace: {A Six Part Series} Part 6 – Where Do We Go From Here? (A Conclusion)

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Today we’ll wrap up this series on modesty and grace.  Pretty soon I will do my first ever give away, which will include the book that I have referenced frequently (Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel) by Tim Challies and RW Glenn.  Keep an eye out here and on the Facebook page for more info on that when it comes available!

If you’re just now joining us, here are the links to catch up.

Intro

Part I – Backstory and Bible Verses

Part II – Is Modesty More Than What We Wear?

Part III – Culture, Context, and Time

Part IV – What Does Our Immodesty Say About Us?

Part V – Who’s Responsibility Is It?

Today let’s talk about where we go from here.  How do we break out of this?  How do we get away from the annual Bikini and Yoga Pant Wars?  How do we get to the heart of the issue and focus on the real problem – our own idols and pride and sin nature?

We start by accepting that modesty outside the gospel of grace is legalism.

There is freedom in Christ and modesty is cultural, contextual, and fluctuating.  Yes, there are absolutes, but those are very limited in Scripture, and God leaves a lot of grey area because, I believe, He wants us to constantly be seeking Him, coming to Him, studying His living and active Word for what He is doing in each of our lives.

We accept the grace He has given to each of us and we extend it generously to one another.

We talk to our husbands and ask their honest opinions, not ones shaped by what they’ve been told or trained to think, but what’s really in their hearts.  We pray for them to have hearts and minds that are pure and focused on God’s best and practicing self-control so their eyes and desires are focused on us, their wives.

We pray that God would make us wives that are desirable to our husbands (because this does matter).

We teach our daughters and our sons that what they see in pictures and on silver screens is fake.  More of it than we will ever know.

We tell them that God made the body beautiful.  He made us to be attracted to each other.  He made us to desire each other.  He also made us to practice self control and to think and not be ruled by our passions and desires.

We teach our daughters that they are not ultimately responsible for how men look at them.   Yes, we have to make wise choices in our dress, but if a man can be caused to stumble because a woman’s knee caps are exposed, there’s not much else we can do aside from head-to-toe covering.  And lust and rape and other crimes against women happen in those cultures too – and it’s almost always the woman’s “fault”.

Let’s teach our sons and our daughters that beauty is more than skin deep, but that God also made us beautiful and He delights in our beauty like a groom delights in his bride and it is ok to look beautiful and feel beautiful – as long as that is not our primary goal in life!

And let us teach our children to listen to God’s conviction in their individual lives and show grace to those who may be in a different place.

We teach our daughters (and ourselves) that using our beauty to gain power over a man is sinful and wrong and our beauty is to please the Lord, but there is nothing wrong with being beautiful and stylish.

Let’s teach our sons what Nate Pyle said he will one day teach his son (this is lengthy, but worth it)…

Someday I am going to have to have the conversation with my son.  No, not the conversation all parents dread giving and all kids are mortified having.  I enjoy making people uncomfortable so that conversation should be fun. No, I’m talking about another conversation.  The one that happens after I catch his eye doing what male eyes do well – following an object of lust.  We will probably be out at the mall, because that’s what dads do with their sons, and I’ll catch the look.  Maybe we’ll go to the beach and see it.  Doesn’t matter where it is, there will come a time when I will see it.  And then it will be time for this conversation:

‘Hey, come here.  Let me talk to you.  I saw you look at her.  I’m not judging you or shaming you.  I know why you did.  I get it.  But we have to talk about it because how you look at a woman matters.

A lot of people will try and tell you that a woman should watch how she dresses so she doesn’t tempt you to look at her wrongly.  Here is what I will tell you.  It is a woman’s responsibility to dress herself in the morning.  It is your responsibility to look at her like a human being regardless of what she is wearing.  You will feel the temptation to blame her for your wandering eyes because of what she is wearing – or not wearing.  But don’t.  Don’t play the victim.  You are not a helpless victim when it comes to your eyes.  You have full control over them.  Exercise that control.  Train them to look her in the eyes.  Discipline yourself to see her, not her clothes or her body.  The moment you play the victim you fall into the lie that you are simply an embodied reaction to external stimuli unable to determine right from wrong, human from flesh.

Look right at me.  That is a ridiculous lie.

You are more than that.  And the woman you are looking at is more than her clothes.  She is more than her body.  There is a lot of talk about how men objectify women, and largely, it is true.  Humans objectify the things they love in effort to control them.  If you truly love a person, do not reduce them to an object.  The moment you objectify another human – woman or man, you give up your humanity.

There are two views regarding a woman’s dress code that you will be pressured to buy into.  One view will say that women need to dress to get the attention of men.  The other view will say women need to dress to protect men from themselves.  Son, you are better than both of these.  A woman, or any human being, should not have to dress to get your attention.  You should give them the full attention they deserve simply because they are a fellow human being.  On the other side, a woman should not have to feel like she needs to protect you from you.  You need to be in control of you.

Unfortunately, much of how the sexes interact with each other is rooted in fear.  Fear of rejection, fear of abuse, fear of being out of control. We fear each other because we have been taught the other is dangerous.  We’ve been a taught a woman’s body will cause men to sin.  We’re told that if a woman shows too much of her body men will do stupid things.  Let’s be clear: a woman’s body is not dangerous to you.  Her body will not cause you harm.  It will not make you do stupid things.  If you do stupid things it is because you chose to do stupid things.  So don’t contribute to the fear that exists between men and women.

A woman’s body is beautiful and wonderful and mysterious.  Respect it by respecting her as an individual with hopes and dreams and experiences and emotions and longings.  Let her be confident.  Encourage her confidence.  But don’t do all this because she is weaker.  That’s the biggest bunch of crap out there.  Women are not weaker than men.  They are not the weaker sex.  They are the other sex.

I’m not telling you to not look at women.  Just the opposite.  I’m telling you to see women.  Really see them.  Not just with your eyes, but with your heart.  Don’t look to see something that tickles your senses, but see a human being. My hope is that changing how you see women will change how you are around them.  Don’t just be around women.  Be with women.

Because in the end, they want to be with you.  Without fear of being judged, or shamed, or condemned, or objectified, or being treated as other.  And that’s not just what women want.  That’s what people want. Ultimately, it’s what you want.’

And let’s teach our daughters that that’s what they want in a man too.  They don’t want what they hear in popular music or see on music videos where a woman is only her body, they want a man who sees her for what she really is – a fellow human being, made in the image of the invisible God, worthy of all the care, respect, and honor he can muster because she is a child of the One True King.

And we remember that Christ-like modesty is rooted in love and we extend grace to one another for the freedoms we may or may not have and we cling to the gospel of love as we live out our lives with fellow believers and nonbelievers alike.

We believe and teach what C.S. Lewis said,

The Christian rule of chastity must not be confused with the social rule of “modesty” (in one sense of that word); i.e., propriety, or decency.  The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle.  Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times,the rule of propriety changes.  A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally “modest”, proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies:  and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or unchaste)….When people break the rule of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to excite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity.  But if they break it through ignorance or carelessness they are guilty only of bad manners.  When, as often happens, they break it defiantly in order to shock or embarrass others, they are not necessarily being unchaste, but they are being uncharitable.

And so, “let all that [we] do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:14), and let us “give thanks in all things” (I Thessalonians 5:18), and “whether [we] eat or drink or whatever [we] do, do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31) for He paid the ultimate price to buy our freedom and He showers us with endless grace and mercy and love, so let us not weigh ourselves down with a yoke of legalism nor let us disgrace His great name by abusing the liberty He has bought for us.  Instead, let us seek Him daily to know Him more and reflect His love to everyone around us, in our clothing, in our hospitality, in our generosity, in every way, because His grace covers every thing.

For His Glory ~

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Of Modesty and Grace: {A Six Part Series} Part 5 – Who’s Responsibility Is It?

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So for the past few weeks I’ve been sharing about the topic of modesty and grace.  And I never really intended for the series to take most of the month of January, but such is the pace of things at My Ears Are Tired.  If you’re just now joining us, here are the links to the previous posts so you can catch up…

Series Intro

Part I – Backstory and Bible Verses

Part II – Is Modesty More Than What We Wear?

Part III – Culture, Context, and Time

Part IV – What Does Our Immodesty Say About Us?

Part VI – Where Do We Go From Here?

And so today we tread cautiously, tentatively, into murky waters; I want to take a look at who bears the weight in this modesty debate because one of the greatest reasons given for women keeping covered is that we don’t want to cause our brother to stumble.  And while this is most definitely true, does the full burden of our brother’s firm footing fall to us as women or do they bear some of the weight as well?  Let’s take a look at what others have to say about this….

As I mentioned in previous posts, I read several blogs and articles preparing for this topic, and one of them was this one by Preston Yancey at prestonyancey.com.  He wrote the following this past February –

We were sitting in the upstairs portion of the church, the long hall with the offshoot rooms, in the largest one where the choir would practice, that night arranged with foldout tables covered in opaque white plastic, little red cards on the table in front of us with Comic Sans TRUE LOVE WAITS embolden across the top.

I was told that women should cover their bodies, lest they tempt men to stumble, that a v-neck could be the undoing of a man of God, that Scripture gives us a clear example—Bathsheba at her bath, enticing David by her nakedness—and that it is a warning to us all of the danger of our bodies, which have become the guilty ones.

So I signed the red card in front of me with a teenage scrawl and vowed then and there as a pledge to God and my genitals that I would never lust again.

I believe this lasted about an evening.

When it was over with, when the pledge had been broken…I wondered what the point of it all had been. Was it simply a setup to shame me, a guaranteed trap I would stumble right into as quickly as I had raised the pen to promise that I would never compromise myself or another man’s future wife.

Notice.

Notice the central focus of this discussion, to this point, has been about me.

Women should cover themselves up lest men stumble implied that men could not help but stumble.

We had no control in the matter.

No choice.

If I lusted, it was her fault. She chose to dress the part of my desires. I was only being natural.

Yancey goes on to say in the same post,

The story of David and Bathsheba is perhaps one of the most misinterpreted passages in the Text.

A close reading reveals that several narrative clues point out that David purposefully coerced Bathsheba when she was doing nothing more than the faithful working-out of the levitical code,having ended her monthly cycle and bathing herself as an expression of her purity before God.David was the one who violated her purity, who sinned against her. It wasn’t because she was undressed, but because David acted on his sinful desires.

I resent the culture of modesty that has shamed all of us into thinking modest is about dress codes or property when modest is about a faith worked out humbly, together, respecting image of God in one another, and before and within and a part of our God.

And people are hurt.

And people are angry.

And it’s a confusing time to try and discern what we should do, what we should say.

Because I do think we should still wear clothes, that some things are immodest…and that sexuality isn’t a no-strings-attached freedom.

But if we are not dignifying men and women alike in these conversations, we’re missing the point.

Objectification is a systemic, dangerous sin in our culture, and we as a Church need to say this out loud, from behind pulpits and in the streets.

It needs changing.

It needs healing.

It needs Gospel.

He says more on the topic, but the idea is here.  And this is a man writing this.  Not, I don’t think, because he wants to exploit women, but because he sees this as being more about grace and the heart than rules and necklines.

In June 2013, Christianity Today posted a very interesting perspective on this topic in their “Her-meneutics” section in response to the viral video by Jessica Rey on the Evolution of the Swimsuit.  CT’s article was called Don’t Blame the Bikini, Blame the Bikini Culture.  Here’s some of what they had to say:

Swimsuit designer Jessica Rey’s presentation “Evolution of the Swimsuit,” …has certainly grabbed Christians’ attention. In it, she traces the historical development of the itsy-bitsy bikinis that have gone from unthinkably scandalous to completely normalized in a matter of decades. Her presentation also addresses—though indirectly—the power of culture to shape our vision, particularly our view of the female body.

In her talk, Rey shares data from a neurological study of the male brain:

‘Brain scans revealed that when men are shown pictures of scantily clad women, the region of the brain associated with tools, such as screwdrivers and hammers, lit up. Some men showed zero brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that lights up when one ponders another person’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions.’

These findings are significant, but they also beg an important question: Why do men perceive women’s bodies this way? Scientific findings show that the brain is essentially plastic. It can be shaped and formed and changed by our environments. This means that not all neurological responses are hardwired. Some are conditioned.

In the case of women’s bodies, it’s very possible that men have been conditioned by culture to have a Pavlovian response. Just as dogs grew conditioned to be stimulated by the ring of a bell, our culture has trained men to respond in certain ways to the sight of a female body. This conditioning becomes most apparent in comparison with non-Western cultures, where modesty standards differ.

Western culture conditions our brains with a very particular image of women, seen on TV, the Internet, magazine covers, catalogs, or billboards, where women are portrayed as beautiful objects, or seductresses. Even the most wholesome images communicate this message, using a beautiful female face or slim figure to draw our attention.

Undoubtedly, Rey brought attention to important data. When men associate the female body with objects, not just theoretically but neurologically, we can be sure that our culture is sick. However, additional neurological research points to a societal dysfunction that runs far deeper than bikinis. When men associate the imago dei in women with an inanimate tool, then a more comprehensive restoration is in order, one that promotes theological correction, cultural healing, and renewed vision. To this end, we need to dig a bit deeper.

I’m getting a little tired of seeing modesty refer to the clothes we wear. Modesty—and conversely, sexiness—is communicated through our body language and attitude, not so much what we wear or how much skin we expose.

Those who are “worried” about the male reaction to the female form need to remember that men will still find women in conservative, one-piece, adorable Jessica Rey swimsuits sexy, while not every woman in a bikini will be a turn-on. There’s no hard-and-fast-rule for how we guard our beach bods from the male gaze. And I’m not sure there should be.

Women getting noticed by men for their looks isn’t automatically cause for outrage. Far from it! It’s not wrong for a man to notice a beautiful woman, her face, or even her body. We were all made to notice and appreciate beauty in all its various forms (thank God for that). It’s what the man does with his “noticing” that can cause trouble, but that’s not a woman’s responsibility.

For instance—and this is not a perfect illustration as I’m comparing an object to a human—it’s not wrong for me to notice a beautiful home, to be drawn to its come-hither wrap-around porch or its curving turrets or bulging bay windows. It’s when I start coveting it—or berating myself (or God) for not selling enough books to afford it—that the problem starts. But it’s not owner of the beautiful home’s fault. The owner shouldn’t be forced to “cover up” her house so I don’t sin in my covetousness. House envy is my issue to own. And lusting after a woman’s body is a man’s issue to own. Let’s let them own it.”

Earlier I shared that my husband grew up part of a very legalistic ministry.  Young men were required to wear white button down shirts and dress pants and girls uniforms were a white blouse and long skirt without slits.  Teenagers were sent off to work with this ministry and would live in dorm-like settings for months.  Understandably, ministry leaders were very concerned about the implications of having a few hundred hormone-ravaged teenagers living in such close quarters for months on end and much discussion was had about purity of heart, mind, and body.  But, as Matt has shared with me, when so.much.focus is placed on “the purple elephant” of the other sex, eventually all you can think about is the purple elephant.  And so the rules got stricter and wackier until they became a cumbersome, heavy yoke for these teens to bear, rather than an opportunity for them to learn how to handle their thoughts and God-given emotions with grace and love.  And in our discussions through the years, particularly, about the Bikini Wars, Matt has said many times if a man can lust after a woman in a formless blouse and long, flowing skirt, he can lust after anything, so no amount of fabric will ever be enough to keep a man from lusting.  Which means, at least some of the burden is on the man – to control his eyes and his thoughts and his actions.

In  my research, I read one article by a woman about “the day she wore yoga pants”.  And while the post was not one I necessarily agreed with, I found that some of the comments were interesting.  I particularly appreciated what one man had to say on the topic, “I wasn’t going to respond,” he wrote, “but I’ve seen so many of these posts and all have been mostly by women, who is commenting? Mostly all women…have you ever stopped to wonder why that is? Because real men aren’t concerned with this “lust problem”, and the only ones who are, are “christian” men. Real men are like Mike Stanton who posted above about his reaction to a good looking woman, “It’s about the same feeling I get when I drive by a nice car on the road. “Woah, that’s nice!”, and then I go back to whatever I’m doing.” …Lust is not looking, lust is the desire to replace your husband/wife with someone else. Appreciation is not lust and those who have a problem need to deal with that on their own. It irks me that so many go around shaming women into following a bunch of rules that no one has any business making up!!”

When we were dating and would go to movies or watch television and a bedroom scene would come on, my not-yet-husband would avert his eyes and look away.  That spoke so much to me and showed me, for the first time really, that men can make a choice to do better, to be better.  When we travel to the Caribbean, as I’ve said, there are topless women.  My husband is not distracted by them; his eyes are for his bride.  He makes that choice.

I firmly believe men and boys can learn to handle what they see.  Yes, I understand that their optical nerve is connected to their penis, but I believe it can be rewired and that they are able to be stronger than the world around them – because the power of Christ lives in them.  And I realize that the overt sexualization and objectification of women is everywhere.  But to me, that makes it even more imperative that our boys and men learn how to handle these images.  

If a man is a believer, he is not held captive to the desires of the flesh.  He is able to do differently than the world expects of him.  He is able to rise above.  Honestly, I believe that even if a man isn’t a Christian, he is capable of better, more.  But those with the power of Christ in them – they have the Creator of the universe to draw strength from.  So, let’s not lower the bar and weaken our men mentally and emotionally.  Let’s build them up and exhort them to a higher view of women and of themselves.  This is not a license for us to be grace-less in our choices, but it celebrates the freedom we all have because of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will wrap this series up with some thoughts on where to go from here and how to change our view of modesty to one that is more about grace and the heart and less about outward appearances.

For His Glory ~

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Of Modesty and Grace: {A Six Part Series} Part 4 – What Does Our Immodesty Say About Us?

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Continuing the conversation today about modesty and grace and looking at our definition of modesty, different types of immodesty, and what our immodesty says about us.  If you’re just now joining us, click the links below to see the other posts in this series.

Introduction

Part 1 – Backstory and Bible Verses

Part 2 – Is Modesty More Than What We Wear?

Part 3 – Culture, Context, and Time

Part 5 – Who’s Responsibility Is It?

Part 6 – Where Do We Go From Here?

Now, let’s look at today’s aspect of modesty and begin by settling on a definition.

Challies and Glenn, in their book Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel have an excellent definition for this sometimes elusive word.  They define modesty as, “that virtue which is respectful of a culture’s rules for appropriate and inappropriate dress, speech, and behavior in a given situation.”  This definition is excellent, as it allows room for context and grace and also takes the focus off of our clothing and puts it onto our hearts, where it belongs.  As they say in their fourth chapter, “Without question, the foremost intersection of the gospel and modesty is your heart.  If your heart is not fundamentally gripped by the grace of God as revealed in the gospel, then all your efforts at modesty will be for naught.”

And so, if modesty is more than our attire, if it is a heart issue, where do we display our immodesty?  I believe we display it in exercising license without love and in entertaining legalism through pride.

If I have the freedom in Christ to wear a two piece swimsuit, but know that I am going to a party in an environment where that will make other attendees unnecessarily uncomfortable and I do it anyway, I am exercising license without love.

But if I do not have that freedom in Christ and feel more righteous because I only wear a one piece swimsuit, then I am entertaining legalism through pride and am equally immodest.

If I dress stylishly and cute and seek to gain a subtle power over those around me with my attractiveness, I am exercising license without love.

But if I choose to dress traditionally (not necessarily because I like that style but to make a statement), to the point that I stand out more, thus drawing even more attention to myself than I would in more modern clothing, I am entertaining legalism through pride.

If I have a large home in the nice part of town and spend lavishly on it, as well as cars and vacations and expensive clothes, and do not have money left to give to my church or missions, then I am exercising license without love.

But if I live in a modest home in the middle of town and drive an older, paid-off vehicle and only buy my clothes second-hand, and look down on others because of my “modest” lifestyle, I am entertaining legalism through pride.

If I have the freedom to use speech typically considered “vulgar” or discuss topics once considered inappropriate, and do so in an effort to “ruffle feathers”, I am exercising license without love.

But if I choose my words carefully and only speak of “safe” topics, and think of myself higher than I ought because of this, I am entertaining legalism through pride.

Immodesty comes to us in many forms, not just the clothes we wear.  We deceive ourselves if we believe that it begins anywhere other than our heart. We are able to practice modesty and grace as we grow in Christ.  As His word and His love fill our hearts, grace flows out.  If we are not filled with that love, modesty becomes  a way to judge, and we stack our righteousness up against those around us.  If we are not filled with that love, modesty becomes a burden, a chore, a heavy yoke.  If we are not filled with that love, modesty or immodesty becomes a badge we wear with ungodly pride.

Challies and Glenn sum it up this way, “This is why we’re not modest:  we have a worship problem.  We worship at altars that lead us to sin against modesty.  Don’t see your immodesty as the root of the problem; see it as the fruit and go after the plant where you can do the most damage – the tangled roots of your idolatrous desires.”

And so to become modest, in more than just our dress, we must get to the heart.  Why do we do the things we do, make the choices we make, live the life we live?  Is it done in an attitude that says (more or less) “Look at me!  I’m more righteous than you! (Or, alternatively, but just as wrong, I have more freedom than you!)”  Or does it flow from an attitude of gratefulness for all God has done for us, for His abundant blessing and love, and the freedom He has given us in Jesus?  True modesty can only flow from these things, because a heart bent in humble adoration of Christ, cannot help but pour out grace because that heart recognizes its own sinfulness and brokenness.  That heart recognizes that without Christ, we are all chief among sinners.  That heart recognizes that it is the love of Christ, not self-righteousness, condemnation, or flaunted freedom, that draws us close to God.

Next week, Lord willing, we’ll look at “causing my brother to stumble” and wrap up this series with some final thoughts and a giveaway.

May the love of Christ Jesus overflow from your hearts today, my friends.

For His Glory ~

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Of Modesty and Grace: {A Six Part Series} Part 3 – Culture, Context, and Time

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So we’ve been discussing modesty and grace following a recent request for me to speak to a local mom’s group on the topic.  In case you’re just joining us, the previous posts can be found here:

Intro

Part I – Backstory and Bible Verses

Part II – Is Modesty More Than What We Wear

Part IV – What Does Our Immodesty Say About Us?

Part V – Who’s Responsibility Is It?

Part VI – Where Do We Go From Here?

Today I want to look at some other aspects of modesty and what shapes or influences our concept of this seemingly elusive ideal.  So let’s discuss…Is modesty cultural?  Is it contextual?  And does the image of modesty change over time?  Here we go….

Is Modesty Cultural?

If you have travelled outside of the US at all, or even if you’ve travelled to areas outside the midwest, it doesn’t take long to see that modesty can be considered cultural.

When I travelled to Germany in high school (a very long time ago), our teacher discussed with us and our parents beforehand that we may be exposed to what, in the States at that time, would be considered almost pornographic.  She explained that nudity on magazine covers or television programs in Europe was not considered odd or unacceptable and we should be prepared for that.  Yet, when I travelled to the Middle East three years later, I was told it was immodest to show bare forearms, even in the 90-degree sun.  And then, in travelling to the Caribbean recently with my husband, we learned that topless sunbathing is not at all unusual (also true on many European beaches), and in our observing of passers-by, the only gawkers tended to be the Americans.

Going back to Challies and Glenn and their book Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel, “Modesty and discretion are virtues (inner characteristics), but our culture determines the way that modesty and discretion express themselves in our dress and behavior (outward appearance)” (emphasis mine).

And so it seems, at least to me, that modesty is cultural.  I think the struggle comes when we equate modesty with purity or chastity.  One can dress in incredibly “modest” clothing by their cultural standard, and still be unchaste in heart, mind, and/or body.  Chastity, as defined in Scripture, is the same for all believers throughout time, while modesty is (at least somewhat) dependent on cultural norms and standards.

Is Modesty Contextual?

So, going back to our Bikini Wars, let’s think about swimsuits for a moment.  Let’s all decide that a one-piece swimsuit is modest.  Not a tankini that could creep up and show your belly, but a real, true, bonafide one-piece.  If it has a skirt, you get bonus points.

Now, wear that to church.  Or a wedding.  Or a job interview.  Do you feel modest now?  Are you thinking, this was an excellent choice…I don’t stand out at all.  No, you feel ridiculous and exposed and like you desperately want to crawl under a rock and hide.

And so, could it be, that modesty is contextual?  What is modest in one setting may be completely immodest in another?

 Challies and Glenn write in Modest, “It is only the application of the gospel to valid cultural norms regarding dress that will allow your judgment of what is and is not modest in a given circumstance to be legitimately Christian.”

Does the picture of modesty change over time?

Let’s go back to I Timothy 2:9-10, for example, where we can see that the cultural and contextual definition of modesty can change over time.

It says, “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.”

Now, for the most part, we no longer consider braided hair or jewelry to be immodest in any setting.  Cleary, with the definition we are working toward, both could be worn immodestly (drawing unnecessary attention to oneself in an attitude of grace-less-ness), but for most of us, earrings and braided hair are not a stumbling block.  And so, this is a standard that has changed over time.  Even the idea of wearing jeans (or shorts – gasp!) to church is one that 20 years ago was scandalous, but in many churches today is the norm.

I  like what C.S. Lewis says,

I do not think that a very strict or fussy standard of propriety [i.e., modesty] is any proof of chastity or any help to it, and I therefore regard the great relaxation and simplifying of the rule which has taken place in my own lifetime as a good thing.  At its present stage, however, it has this inconvenience, that people of different ages and different types do not all acknowledge the same standard, and we hardly know where we are.  While this confusion lasts I think that old, or old-fashioned, people should be very careful not to assume that young or “emancipated” people are corrupt whenever they are (by the old standard) improper; and, in return, that young people should not call their elders prudes or puritans because they do not easily adopt the new standard. A real desire to believe all the good you can of others and to make others as comfortable as you can will solve most of the problems.

(emphasis mine)

And so it would seem to me that modesty is defined culturally (while chastity is constant over time and space), it varies contextually, and it does evolve or change, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The majority of women today are thankful for the emancipation from wearing skirts all the time and the expectation of long hair in order to be seen as womanly.  Most people do not consider these women immodest, it is simply the evolution of fashion and society.

Next time we’ll look at what our immodesty says about us.  And later this week I’m hoping to touch on the man’s role in the modesty conversation.  Pray with me, would you?  That the words I share will be God honoring and edifying to those who read them.  Let’s all believe all the good we can of others this week.

For His Glory ~

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Of Modesty and Grace {A Six Part Series} Part 2 – Is Modesty More Than What We Wear?

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As I prepared to share on this topic, I read numerous blog posts and articles.  I also read the book Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel by Tim Challies and RW Glenn.  I’m going to reference this book frequently today and highly recommend you order a copy or download it to your e-reader.  In fact, I recommend it so highly, I’m going to give away a copy at the end of this series, so be sure to stay tuned!  It’s very short (I read it in a matter of a couple hours one night), but very good.  Challies and Glenn begin by stating, “Modesty has been made into a kind of captivity….We wrote this book not because we have a bone to pick with women or because bathing suits make us nervous but because we want to help men and women both discover the joy and freedom of gospel modesty in all of life.”  They also state, “Yes, modesty includes a women’s clothing choices, but it is about far more than that.  We want to look at modesty in its full biblical scope, which means: we must address the immodest man as much as we do the immodest woman, and we must address the person who speaks or behaves immodestly as much as the person who dresses immodestly.”

Challies and Glenn again say, “When we build theology without clear reference to the gospel, we begin to take refuge in rules….The Christians in Colossae wanted to please God, and they wanted their faith to affect everything they did, but they ended up reducing their thinking about food and festivals to a list of rules: ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch.’  We aren’t a whole lot better off today.  When it comes to modesty we define the term too narrowly…and then surround ourselves with rules like ‘only this low,’ ‘at least this long,’….In fairly short order, the gospel is replaced with regulations.  Indeed, in this particular area, the regulations become our gospel – a gospel of bondage rather than freedom.”

What we end up missing is that “the gospel of grace informs and gives shape to what it means to be modest.  Modesty without the gospel is prudishness.  Modesty divorced from the gospel becomes the supposed benchmark of Christian maturity – perhaps especially for women – and a perch of self-righteous superiority from which to look down on others who ‘just don’t get it.’…Modesty, apart from the gospel, becomes a self-made religion.”

And so we first discover that modesty is more than what we wear, or don’t wear.  Modesty is part of how we show Jesus to the world, not only through our clothing, but also our speech, our hospitality, our generosity, and our kindness.  Modesty is for all of us, but it’s not all about appearances, which takes us back to when I said that we as Christians like to make our own lists of rules to measure ourselves and one another against, and as Challies and Glenn also said, “It is difficult to address an issue when the problem is always someone elses;” (because how often has anyone said “I really struggle with being immodest”?  No, it’s almost always the other person who is struggling.)

And we can see that part of the rub of the Bikini and Yoga Pant Wars is the way we have boxed ourselves in.  And I think part of the problem is that some of us are trying to fit everyone into our box, when the gospel gives freedom and grace and we hold everyone up to the standard we have set rather than the standard of love.

Stay tuned for more as we continue to unpack these thoughts on modesty and grace.

For His Glory ~

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More in this series:

Modesty and Grace Intro

Modesty and Grace Part 1 – Backstory and Bible Verses

Modesty and Grace Part 3 – Culture, Context, and Time

Modesty and Grace Part 4 – What Does Our Immodesty Say About Us?

Modesty and Grace Part 5 – Who’s Responsibility Is It?

Modesty and Grace Part 6 – Where Do We Go From Here?

Of Modesty and Grace {A Six Part Series} Part 1: Backstory and Bible Verses

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I grew up in a first-generation Christian home.  Modesty was not a topic discussed much, because I always dressed like I was about forty (not that there’s anything wrong with being forty; I’m getting there quickly myself) and so I don’t think my parents were particularly concerned about it with me.  I am confident that my mother has far more concerns about my clothing choices today than she ever did when I was a teen. [grin]

My husband, Matt, grew up in a more legalistic environment.  Not so much that his parents pushed legalism, but rather the ministry group they were affiliated with was riddled with it.  Because of his involvement with this ministry and this social media age and the fact that he has friends all across the country (and world) from this same ministry, the long term effects of this legalistic mindset have led to many a conversation in our home on legalism and grace and how we live our lives.  And in the world of legalism, modesty is always a hot topic, so it’s one we’ve hashed out a lot over the years.  And as the parents of five beautiful girls, we continue to hash it out, as we want to lead them well in this area.

Modesty is defined (per my Google search) as “the quality or state of being unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one’s abilities and behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.”

That doesn’t say much really.  At least nothing specific.  It’s pretty vague.

Every summer, it seems, modesty becomes a trending topic on Facebook.  And maybe Twitter too.  The Bikini Wars, as I have dubbed them, start up and a dozen blog links get posted and both sides end up very frustrated.  I know I do anyway….I can only assume the other side does as well.  It will occasionally come up other times in the year (as in the newly discovered Yoga Pant Wars – I had no idea these were so controversial!), but summer seems to be the most popular time to publicly discuss acceptable dress codes, particularly in the area of swim wear.  And here is why I think modesty is such a “hot” topic:  Because so many of our other sins and struggles and choices can be kept hidden.  I can struggle with a porn problem or excessive drinking or a shopping addiction or laziness, and keep that a secret.  I can over eat or waste too much time on social media or watching television or reading questionable literature, and no one ever has to know.  But if I wear a bikini to the pool – or if I don’t, if I wear a v-neck shirt or leggings as pants – or if I don’t – those are all things that are seen and cannot be hidden.

We humans, and I think especially we Christians, we crave a list of rules, a list of do’s and don’ts, so we can measure our own righteousness and, if we’re honest, the righteousness of others.  Because God didn’t give us many lists (other than the 10 Commandments, which the Pharisees, we all know, turned into a bloated, weighty yoke that no one could bear), we like to make up our  own and stack ourselves and others up against them to see how we all compare because Satan wants us to believe we have to work for everything when God says it’s all a free gift.  And so, we cherry pick Bible verses and call “foul” on two-piece swim suits, strapless dresses, and short shorts, when the Bible really says very little about those things.

So, let’s look at some of what the Bible does say about modesty:

1 Timothy 2:9-10 – 9 – women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

1 Peter 3:3-4 – Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

Proverbs 11:22 – Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.

Matthew 5:28 – But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

1 Samuel 16:7 – But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (emphasis mine)

1 John 2:16 – For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

This is just a sampling of verses, but I see very little in them that talks about necklines or hem lengths or the amount of lycra that is acceptable to wear to the pool.  I see verses that focus on the heart and where our focus truly should be – on loving and serving Jesus.

Stay tuned for more in this series.

For His Glory ~

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More in this series:

Modesty and Grace: Intro

Modesty and Grace, Part 2 – Is Modesty More Than What We Wear?

Modesty and Grace, Part 3 – Culture, Context, and Time

Modesty and Grace, Part 4 – What Does Our Immodesty Say About Us?

Modesty and Grace, Part 5 – Who’s Responsibility Is it?

Modesty and Grace, Part 6 – Where Do We Go From Here?

Of Modesty and Grace {A Six Part Series}

Late last summer I was asked to share with a local mom’s group on the topic of modesty.  I immediately laughed out loud.

And then I started to panic.

Because of all the topics to share on, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to fit in the church “box” on this one (not our church, per se, but the church in general).

But I prayed and I talked to Matt, and the green light was given.  So I prayed more and read and researched and prepared what the Lord gave me.  And last week I was able to share with those ladies and the feedback I’ve received has been good, and because this is a topic that is important and always cycling around a bit on the internet and in desperate need of grace, I will share here over the next few days.

Will you join me as we look at what God’s word says about this topic this week?

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But first, a habit that’s fallen by the wayside here, that seems important to get back to – counting the gifts.  And as a fresh start and because it’s been a while, I will just start at January 1 and (hopefully) pick the weekly habit up again.

2838.  new year, new calendar, new start – same Jesus

2839.  goals, hopes, dreams for the new year

2840.  savoring the last few days of two weeks off

2841.  heart full of joy, hope, and healing brought by my Jesus

2842.  coldest night of the year; warm home to sleep in

2843.  impromptu dates

2844.  husband who loves me in spite of all my imperfectness

(And, no, I haven’t forgotten my 25 Days of Joy…we’ll get back to those soon too!)

For His Glory ~

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More in this series:

Modesty and Grace, Part 1 – Backstory and Bible Verses

Modesty and Grace, Part 2 – Is Modesty More Than What We Wear?

Modesty and Grace, Part 3 – Culture, Context, and Time

Modesty and Grace, Part 4 – What Does Our Immodesty Say About Us?

Modesty and Grace, Part 5 – Who’s Responsibility Is It?

Modesty and Grace, Part 6 – Where Do We Go From Here?